Getting the right balance between investing for growth and exposure to risk is important for every investor, but for retirees, it is even more crucial.
You need to ensure your money keeps growing so that it lasts throughout your retirement, while also protecting yourself against losses associated with market volatility.
The retirement landscape is vastly different than it was a generation ago.
Most people used to work towards a retirement date when they would buy an annuity – a policy that provides a guaranteed regular income for life. It made sense to gradually reduce investment risk in the lead up to that date.
Nowadays many people opt for income drawdown, where there isn’t a clean cut-off date.
It is crucial to match your attitude to investment risk with realistic income objectives to ensure you have a coherent strategy for a sustainable retirement.
Drawdown offers investors flexibility and control, but the lack of a guarantee means investments have to carry on working for the rest of your life.
These challenges are compounded by the fact that retirees today have much longer life expectancies than their parents and grandparents did. A man aged 65 can now expect to live to 85.6 years and a woman to 87.8 years, according to the Office for National Statistics.
That means you might need your pension to last for more than 20 years.
‘In simple terms, if you have a drawdown pension that you depend upon which suffers continuous poor growth after charges and inflation, you are unlikely to have a sustainable retirement, and your standard of living will eventually reduce,’ says Oliver Smyth, financial adviser at Walker Crips Wealth Management.
‘It is crucial to match your attitude to investment risk with realistic income objectives to ensure you have a coherent strategy for a sustainable retirement.’
If you want to grow your portfolio by investing in the stockmarket; you’ll need to take on risk. But, take on too much risk and it could have a devastating impact on the value of your pension.
Once you start withdrawing money from your pension, the impact of a stock market downturn becomes far greater. As fund values drop, you need to sell down a higher proportion of your fund to generate the same income. This means you’ll deplete your pension pot far more quickly.
‘High levels of income withdrawal when capital values are suppressed can be particularly destructive,’ says Charles Calkin, financial planner at James Hambro & Co.
‘The right level of risk is a sensible balance between giving you income and potential for capital growth to protect against inflation and not putting your security in jeopardy.’
This is because you need to assess your capacity for loss – i.e. how much your lifestyle would be affected if you were to suffer a significant loss from your pension.
The last decade has demonstrated the danger of having too much wealth tied up in bank saving accounts, which potentially can erode purchasing power, especially given today’s low interest rate environment
Smyth says if a retiree requires 10% of their retirement fund as an income each year, this is unlikely to be achieved with a cautious or medium risk portfolio.
However, if the retiree doesn’t have a great deal of capacity for loss, then pursuing a higher risk strategy could be harmful in more negative market conditions.
‘In this instance, it may be more beneficial to revise your lifestyle and spending to see if there is any way to decrease the burden on your drawdown income and create a more sustainable retirement plan,’ Smyth adds.
Simon Molica, fund manager at AJ Bell, says many retirees are probably not taking on enough risk within their overall pot of wealth.
‘The last decade has demonstrated the danger of having too much wealth tied up in bank saving accounts, which potentially can erode purchasing power, especially given today’s low interest rate environment,’ he says.
‘It is important to ensure that the income generated from your investments is not slowly eroding the capital of your wealth in an unexpected manner.’
Matt Swatton, private client partner at Thomas Miller Investment, suggests that a typical 65 year-old seeking investment growth that isn’t overly risky should aim for a 30% to 50% allocation to equities. The remainder would be split between lower risk asset classes such as bonds, gilts, property, alternatives and cash; some funds have these built into them, to help spread risk.
Swatton reckons Standard Life Investments MyFolio Market III (GB00B758J660) is worth looking at. The fund aims to generate a total return from a combination of income and capital growth by solely investing in passive funds.
‘The passive portfolio construction of the fund means that the overall cost of the underlying holdings are cheaper, which would suit a client with a smaller retirement pot,’ says Swatton.
‘As it’s designed for a client with a balanced attitude to risk – who isn’t necessarily seeking risky investments but isn’t avoiding them either – it would seem to suit a retired investor with a longer-term time horizon.’
Fidelity MoneyBuilder Income is a UK corporate bond fund which aims to produce a strong level of income, low volatility and equity diversification.
Evenlode Income is a UK equity fund which seeks to invest in quality companies with resilient profit streams, sustainable growth profiles and limited capital reinvestment needs or reliance upon leverage.
If you’re not comfortable picking individual funds, a multi-asset fund is a simpler option. These ‘one-stop-shop’ funds spread your money across lots of different assets according to a specified risk profile.
To buy these funds log in your Selftrade account.
A Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) can help boost your retirement income. Take control of your retirement pot and benefit from up to 45% tax relief.
If you'd like more help to narrow your choice and find a mutual fund that meets your investing goals, then the Mutual Fund Select List, powered by Square Mile Research, will give you a head start.
Tom is the deputy editor at Shares Magazine and has more than eight years’ experience working in investment journalism.
Access a wide range of global investments in this flexible, unrestricted account.
Take advantage of tax free investing with our Stocks and Shares ISA today.
Selftrade does not provide investment advice. This article is the authors view and is not the view or opinion of Selftrade and Selftrade accepts no liability for any loss caused as a result of the use of this information. The opinions expressed are those of the author at the time of writing and should not be interpreted as investment advice.
The value of investments can fall as well as rise and any income from them is not guaranteed and you may get back less than you invested. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. We do not provide advice or make recommendations about investments. If you have any doubts about the suitability of an investment, you should seek advice from a suitably qualified professional adviser.